By Keith Bender ’11
“Allow me to reintroduce myself.”
Jay-Z’s demand reverberated through the gym as Brophy’s varsity wrestlers jogged out onto the mat Jan. 7 to face off against the Chandler Wolves.
In attendance were a handful of freshmen and J.V. wrestlers, several alumni, the wrestlers’ families, Fr. Eddie Reese, S.J., and his dog Archie.
The intensity of the gym lights matched that of the wrestlers’ faces as they studied and sized up their opponents. The match was about to begin.
For some, “wrestling” conjures images of brutish, no-limits mixed martial arts fighting. But for the members of Brophy’s tightly-knit wrestling team, their sport means commitment, hard work and great reward.
Brophy wrestling’s growth and success have long been stunted by a variety of factors, but as it approaches its 20th season, the team is enjoying a wave of recent success and recognition.
More of a contact sport than any other, practices are long, intense and involve precision drilling with a partner in order to perfect technique.
Demanding drills, sweat-inducing workouts and “live,” or full-intensity, wrestling in practice compensate for the team’s no-cuts policy. This results in a program that is constantly seeking committed individuals.
At the core of the varsity team are two seniors, captains Paul Looper ’10 and Tadeo Ruelas ’10, who have been members of the squad for four years.
The wrestling team was established in the 1970s under Mr. Dave Brennan’s coaching direction, but the program folded after two years. It returned with vigor in 1990, when more than 100 students came out for the singlet-wearing team that practiced in the Robson Gymnasium basement, now the Information Commons.
When construction of the Information Commons began, the team was moved to the second-floor balconies of the gymnasium, then to the Tech Theater workshop for two years, and subsequently to the Brophy East Sports Campus.
It was not until five years ago that the team took up residency in its own fully-padded room in Loyola Hall.
Varsity wrestling won its first Desert Valley region championship in 2001, but the program did not enjoy continued success until Mr. Brad Frank took the head coaching position.
In its 16-year history prior to his tenure, Brophy saw only seven wrestlers place in the state tournament.
In just three years, Mr. Frank’s team has produced the same number of state placers, while also winning the 2009 region championship.
The resident expert on Brophy wrestling is Mr. Jose Leyba ’94, who has wrestled for or coached with every head coach in the program’s modern history.
Like most freshmen who join the no-cuts wrestling team, Mr. Leyba had no prior experience with the sport, but was able to become a three-year starter on the varsity team.
As the freshmen coach, Mr. Leyba offers the same leadership opportunity to those who are willing to commit themselves. Currently, the varsity team starts four freshmen and one sophomore out of a 14-man lineup.
Wrestling is a unique sport. An individual’s effort, one match at a time, determines the team’s success.
Meets are won by the team that accumulates more team points; team points are earned through 14 individual matches at different weight classes.
Looper counts the personal satisfaction that comes from helping his team win as the ultimate reward for his commitment and sacrifice.
“There is no greater feeling than winning a wrestling match,” he said.
Brophy’s wrestlers said they hope they will earn some recognition and support from their peers.
“We really hope to see a lot of student support this year,” said Conner Devereux ’11, who has wrestled for Coach Frank since seventh-grade. “When you hear people cheering your name, see them in the stands, you don’t want to disappoint them, and you find yourself working harder on the mat.”